Kentucky Derby Pre-Analysis

Now that the final preps are finished, I can now take a step back and start to separate some of my picks. None of this will be final until the post positions are drawn and the workouts are looked over, but these are my initial thoughts after a brief look at the two big preps from last weekend, the Blue Grass and the Arkansas Derby.


I’ve watched this race probably about 20 times now, and what a mass of confusion it creates. Nevertheless, there are a number of valuable points to be drawn from how it all went down. Watch it again, making note of these facts:

  • The race was run on Polytrack. The Kentucky Derby is run on dirt. That makes a difference.
  • The fractions and the ultimate speed figures resulting from the running of this race are too bad to be true. This was a hysterically bad example of a race where no horse wanted the lead, or, moreover, all feared to set the pace. As a result, Teuflesberg was allowed to set crawling fractions while the rest of the field didn’t really even start to move on him until the final turn. By that point, a lot of time had been wasted, and a half mile sprint to the finish ensued. This was puzzling behavior by the jockeys, who apparently uniformly did not realize how slow the fractions actually were. For this reason, I have to throw out the low speed figs.
  • As if the anti-rabbit pace wasn’t enough to convict Teuflesberg, how about the fact that he basically ruined the race in the home stretch? I’ve watched this closely to determine how the collision between Great Hunter and Teuflesberg affected momentum, which I think is hugely important in this 9f prep. Here is what I see: Teuflesberg is about two wide heading down the home stretch but fading after leading the race despite the slow pace he set. The two horses that are really flying are Street Sense and Great Hunter, who are right next to each other, although Street Sense has a little more room on the outside. Obviously, Great Hunter is directly behind Teuflesberg, and since Great Hunter is gaining strongly while Street Sense is doing the same to his immediate right, he rear ends Teuflesberg and loses all of his momentum; his jockey, realizing that the race is lost, wisely chooses not to exert any pointless energy. Even more importantly is a fact that seems to be widely overlooked by handicappers everywhere is that Street Sense, while not directly impacted by the collision, veers right and certainly loses momentum. Meanwhile, Zanjero is enjoying a dream trip right on the rail away from the chaos, and Dominican is gaining from way off the pace away and unaffected by the action. Dominican wins the race by a virtual photo, and less than a half a length seperates the next three.
  • Conclusions: If Zanjero couldn’t win with such a beneficial trip away from the chaos, I really don’t like his chances in a longer race. Dominican loves the Polytrack, and he won’t get that at Churchill, nor will he be this close to the pace. To me, Street Sense and Great Hunter were setting up for a great battle, but Teuflesberg couldn’t get out of the way. It’s almost a race that you can draw a line though, but after watching it over and over again, I haven’t lost the respect for those two that a lot of handicappers have. They didn’t overexert (Street Sense actually turned in an absolute killer workout today) and showed the turn of foot that they need to be successful next Saturday. Watch the race, and analyze the momentum shift after the collision.


It is hard not to be impressed by Curlin. Undefeated in three lifetime starts, his stalking, takeover style is the stuff of Derby champs. In this race, he stayed just off the pace before taking over around the final turn and basically demolishing the field. But as impressive as this win might have been, it raises a lot of doubts in my mind. Let me preface by saying that I really regretted overlooking Smarty Jones when he won this race two years ago and then repeated that performance to win the Derby. Neverthless, I’m going to take a stand against Curlin for several reasons:

  • The entire Curlin fad reminds me too much of what happened with Bellamy Road. That one had just placed a knockout 117 Beyer in a huge Wood Memorial victory and it looked impossible for him to be beaten. Bellamy Road didn’t exactly “bounce” in the Derby, but he certainly didn’t duplicate his Wood performance. Now put in perspective the fact that Curlin’s Beyer for the Arkansas Derby was 103 ,which, while the top Beyer in what looks like an abnormally slow (but still very talented) group of three year olds, isn’t really anything to get excited about. All of the favorites have posted at least a 98 and most have posted a 100 or higher at 8.5f or further. It’s more than reasonable to imagine a Street Sense or a Nobiz Like Showbiz putting up a 105 at Churchill.
  • With only three starts in his career, Curlin is very inexperienced. Talented to be sure, but who has he beaten? He hasn’t faced a single horse that will be in the top 15 betting favorites out of the 20 horse field, so he’s taking a giant step up in class. No horse has won the Derby in the last 100 years that did not race as a two year old, and I’m not sure this horse has done enough to make me think he is the one to break the trend.
  • The whole thing just has “bounce” written all over it. I can feel it. And at 7-2 morning line in an incredibly deep field, he could be one of the biggest underlays I’ve ever seen in the race. Maybe he’ll prove me wrong, but with only three career starts, I’d want more than 7-2.

So, without further adieu, here are my Top 15 as of today, relatively in the order of probability I feel they have of winning the race. I really feel like my top five are a coin toss though, and wouldn’t be surprised to see any of the top 13 win it. I’m not sure if I’ve ever said that about a Derby, but there it is. Oh dear, I’ve got quite a week ahead of me…

Dis Place Time Beyer Notes
#1 Street Sense (Street Cry-Bedazzle)
Tampa Bay Derby 8.5f 1st 1:43.1 101 Stalked pace, won grueling stretch duel
Blue Grass 9f 2nd 93 Stalked, took control, bumped, nosed out
(RECENT WORK) 5f 24-Apr :59.0

#2 Circular Quay (Thunder Gulch-Circle of Life)
Risen Star 8.5f 5th Rough trip, essentially stopped early
Louisiana Derby 8.5f 1st 1:43.0 102 Five wide in the turn, rallied to win, driving
(RECENT WORK) 5f 23-Apr 1:00.1

#3 Great Hunter (Aptitude-Zenith)
Robert B. Lewis 8.5f 1st 1:42.4 101 Sat off pace, exploded stretch, galloped out
Blue Grass 9f 5th Strong stretch move, bumped hard, eased

#4 Nobiz Like Showbiz (Albert the Great-Nightstorm (by Storm Cat))
Holy Bull 8f 1st 1:35.2 Shook lose early, broke away easily
Fountain of Youth 9f 3rd 1:49.2 95 In the mix late, fell short, bumped stretch
Wood Memorial 9f 1st 1:49.1 99 Restrained early, close to pace, held on
(RECENT WORK) 5f 23-Apr :59.3

#5 Any Given Saturday (Distorted Humor-Weekend In Indy (by AP Indy))
Tampa Bay Derby 8.5f 2nd 1:43.1 101 Battled gamely, lost narrowly in the stretch
Wood Memorial 9f 3rd 4 wide trip, three wide turn, battled, tired.
(RECENT WORK) 5f 23-Apr :58.4

#6 Curlin (Smart Strike-Sheriffs Deputy (by Deputy Minister)
Rebel 8.5f 1st 1:44.3 97 Commanded a weak field throughout
Arkansas Derby 9f 1st 103 Stalked, blew away the field
(RECENT WORK) 5f 23-Apr 1:00.4

#7 Scat Daddy (Johannesburg-Love Style)
Holy Bull 8f 3rd Beaten on the pace early, never recovered
Fountain of Youth 9f 1st 1:49.1 95 Stalked, surged in final strides for nose win
Florida Derby 9f 1st 1:49.0 98 Stalked, gained lead, driving home
(RECENT WORK) 5f 23-Apr 1:00.4

#8 Hard Spun (Danzig-Turkish Tryst)
Lane’s End 9f 1st 1:49.2 101 Pushed the pace, took command, steadied
(RECENT WORK) 5f 12-Apr 1:00.1

#9 Tiago (Pleasant Tap)
Robert B. Lewis 8.5f 7th Caught the pace on the turn, tired
Santa Anita Derby 9f 1st 1:49.3 100 Flying finish to overtake top 3, off hot pace
(RECENT WORK) 7f 21-Apr 1:25

#10 Dominican
Rushaway 8.5f 1st 1:43.2 Finished very well
Blue Grass 9f 1st 93 Flying finish outside, benefited from collision

#11 Zanjero
Risen Star 8.5f 3rd 88 Rallied from last to lead, couldn’t hold
Louisiana Derby 8.5f 3rd Gained late to hit the board.
Blue Grass 9f 3rd Rail trip, gained down stretch, had shot
(RECENT WORK) 5f 21-Apr 1:01.0

#12 Cowtown Cat (Distorted Humor-Tom’s Cat (by Storm Cat))
Illinois Derby 9f 1st 1:51.1 98 Wire to wire winner, game drive
(RECENT WORK) 5f 23-Apr :58.2

#13 Sam P
Holy Bull 8f 4th
Robert B. Lewis 8.5f 2nd On the pace early, held on for game 2nd
Santa Anita Derby 9f 3rd Stalked, bid late, stalled
(RECENT WORK) 5f 21-Apr 1:00.3

#14 Stormello (Stormy Atlantic-Wilshewed)

Fountain of Youth 9f 2nd 1:49.1 96 Led down the stretch, caught at wire
Florida Derby 9f 4th 1:49.4 Set hot pace, tired

#15 Liquidity (Tiznow-Boa)
Sham Stakes 9f 2nd 1:49.0 102 Caught late
Louisiana Derby 8.5f 6th Stalked throughout, tired late
Santa Anita Derby 9f 4th On the pace, led turn, tired late

Complete race analysis including pace scenarios as well as my official predictions and bets coming in one week after the post positions.

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